Too Upbeat for Cancer - Detailing A Rubbish Year And A Bit

Chapter 2 Part II - The Wrestler And The Bullfrog


Where was I? Ah yes, a Portakabin. 5 bays on either side of the room. It was pleasant enough, the sort of thing you see in films where they set up an emergency medical bay when people catch a deadly virus. There I settled, looking forward to going home later on. Until then, I whiled away the time people watching. They came and went while I lay on my little gurney, occasionally shuffling off to do a little soupy poo a delightful crimson colour. Amongst many, I observed the following;

- An unintelligible gypsy whose only discernible ailment was morbid obesity.
- A lovely older lady who I shared my newspaper with.
- A teenager with suspected appendicitis.
- A man handcuffed to his gurney who beat his head against the wall for a solid hour.
- An elderly gentleman vomiting faeces (and you thought I was bad)

....and many, many more. The longest someone stayed was 12 hours. Except for me! Hooray!

Kerry (Mrs. Nicky to her friends) arrived to see me at 8pm that evening. She was surprisingly calm but unfortunately apart from seeing a 'man' (to this day I can only assume he was a consultant for 5 minutes) I had nothing to tell her. Other than apologise for texting her that I was eating jelly. Apparently desperately ill people get fed a special jelly. News to me!

There was nothing left to do but hunker down under my sheet and the constant glow of fluorescent lighting, and try to get some sleep for the night on a trolley too short for all of my 6 feet 4 inches. A good 90 minutes should do the trick.

Other than have my blood taken every 2 hours - because I hadn't crapped out enough of it by myself - Saturday was uneventful. After 24 hours I got a bit cross and was told to "be a patient patient". Thanks for that. However, when the place your staying has no facility for you to do basic things like, y'know, eat and wash, when you cross 24 hours it gets a bit silly. Which is when Mrs. Nicky turned. She went native. And if she hadn't I think I'd be there still, ossified like Mrs. Bates. She phoned the hospital switchboard and asked to be put through to the doctor on call. She gave them the professional smack down of their life. 2 hours later I was on a ward. It was late, I'd had enough, I went to sleep.

Now, riddle me this NHS. Why did it take a call from a GP to get me somewhere? And how many people have suffered similarly without a medical professional by their side fighting their corner? I'd fallen into a horrible limbo of no diagnosis but stable, lost so much blood it wasn't safe to let me go, but not an emergency. It was frightening. The possible outcomes still frighten me.

I awoke to realise I was on a relatively spacious Urology ward. Eh? Urology? As far as I could work out, it was a quiet ward where they stuck all the pain in the arse patients they couldn't figure out what to do with. Opposite me was a very poorly old man who never spoke but got nicer dinners than the rest of us. His daughter visited daily but just seemed cross with him for being ill. Diagonally across from me was an angry old Scotsman with one leg who only wore Y-Fronts. I liked him. Opposite him, next to me, was Ray. Beautiful, incredible Ray. Ray gets a paragraph to himself.

Ray was Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. A decaying man mountain in his late 50's. Originally from the East End he made his name in the 70's and 80's wrestling alongside Giant Haystacks and Kendo Nagasaki. It's true, we found him on YouTube and everything. He had so many stories, about how he worked with Guy Richie on the boxing scenes in Snatch and was Madonna's bodyguard on set - 'funny bird, she was'. He was also meant to be a pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean but was arrested for getting mixed up in a violent armed robbery a few days before - "I didn't even stab anyone", and he delighted me every day with his total inability to spread preserve on his toast neatly, uttering the war cry "I got faaaaakin jam on me pyjaaamas again!". Wrestling and crime had destroyed him - he'd been suffering from decaying bones and joints and had been sleeping rough before his hospitalisation. What I saw as physios and doctors and social workers visited him was an ageing man terrified of joining the world. This had become his world. I gave him a book to pass the time and he hadn't read one in 20 years. He seemed to enjoy it. Foolishly when they were discharging him to a care home I said he could sit in my bay while they prepared his for a new patient. He talked to me for 6 solid hours as the social services system slowly ground into action. He had a bag of manky grapes. I hope he's OK. He was, above all else, just alone in the world and scared of what the future would hold.

The company was good, because balls all happened to me medically until Monday, other than being handed random pills every four hours and giving fellow patients impromptu training sessions on their ageing PAYG mobile phones.

Monday came and with 15 minutes notice I was wheeled for an Endoscopy. I had no idea why. The posh man who came to consent me didn't know why either when I told him what had happened. 'We're going in the wrong end!' he cried. Oh God. They're sticking a camera down my throat. He said some patients prefer a little sedation. I said that sounded great. He laughed and said he'd see me in a minute. Brilliant.

Now, when you have a camera shoved down you, you enter a room with three nice people. A little too nice. One of them is wiping down a fluorescent fibre optic tube, grinning. They lay you on your side, shove a large plastic ring in your mouth and leave you there like a roast suckling pig ready to be feasted on by the court of Henry VIII. Then they slide the tube down your throat and tell you to swallow, the dirty blighters. This is the most unnatural and alarming sensation on earth, and you repeatedly and unsuccessfully battle with the gag reflex. You genuinely feel as if you're being choked. And then they ask you questions! At which point you have no choice but to turn into Bane with your vocal stylings.

There I lay, gagging, dribbling, on my side with my eyes watering, being told I'm doing well (LIES) when the endosco-whatever takes his eye off the ball and accidentally pumps a load of extra air into my gut. He's very sorry as I weep and begin involuntarily belching like an oversized musical bullfrog with a serious case of the dribbles. After all that, happily, he gives me the all clear.

And that's the story of my first medical procedure. What a laugh riot. But the hospital had decided I hadn't smelt enough old man poo - time for the horrors of the gastroenterology ward....

Chapter 3 - The Gastroenterology Ward, sponsored by David Cronenberg »

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